The 7 Most Common Author Website Mistakes

I came across a blog entry today from Phyllis Zimbler Miller, an Internet Business Consultant. Her blog entry, titled A Book’s Promotion Should Be Helped by a Book Author Website backs up what I’ve been saying to clients for years!

So many clients I’ve worked with have wanted Flash intro pages on their websites. Or they’ve shot down the idea of collecting email addresses because, “I won’t have a newsletter.” I always give in, of course, because they’re the client! But maybe this will help clear things up a bit.

Here are the biggest mistakes made in author websites, according to Phyllis, and my own two cents on each one:

1. Splash page that puts an extra click between the potential website visitor and the home page with the important book information (splash pages are no longer “in fashion” and should be eliminated)

Sooooo true! I say this all the time. Splash pages are annoying. They keep a user from getting to what they’re looking for. And they’re awful for SEO. A lose-lose.

2. Home page that doesn’t clearly state front-and-center whether the book is fiction or nonfiction and what the book is about

This is a no-brainer. For most authors, I recommend a “welcome” box at the top of their homepage to immediately explain what the book and website are about, who they speak to, and what they hope to accomplish. For some fiction books, I instead recommend that we just include the book cover and a tantalizing description of the book on the homepage. But either way, the subject matter is front and center!

3. Home page and subsequent pages without a clear BUY THIS BOOK NOW button “above the fold” (before having to scroll down the page)

If your goal is to sell the book, then why do authors sometimes make it so difficult for people to do that? I tell authors that we should have a “Buy the Book” link available in big letters on every page of the website. Sometimes, we work it into the navigation. But more often it’s just underneath the book cover wherever it appears. Why make people click around when they want to buy the book?

4. Not offering a free sample chapter to entice people to read more (in other words, buy the book)

Anyone who thinks they’re giving away too much by offering one or more excerpts needs to take a class in marketing.

5. Not collecting email addresses to keep people informed of the author’s new writing developments (email marketing can be very effective for keeping connected with a book author’s fans)

Again, one of my pet peeves. For every author I work with, I recommend we build a newsletter sign-up box on the homepage. I also recommend that we ask permission of everyone submitting a comment through the site to add their email address to the newsletter list. It’s such a simple (and free) thing to do. And having a ready-made list of people interested in your writing can be priceless!

6. Photo or background art on home page that has nothing to do with the book and is confusing to the website visitor.

I do agree with Phyllis on this one, but not quite as passionately as the others. For some authors, they really want the website to reflect their personality. So if they like flowers, and they want flowers as their background image, who am I to tell them it doesn’t work? Even if their book is about, say, career success. It’s a strange fit, but an author site really needs to suit the author.

7. Another major problem for promoting books is authors who only have blogs with no websites.

Ding, ding, ding! This is the biggest (and most common) mistake I come across. So many authors think they can just set up a free blog account and that would replace a website. Not so! When someone visits your blog, they will immediately see the last thing you wrote. It could be about the writer’s block that struck last night or your interesting conversation at the supermarket. But what they WON’T see is your book. Or the tantalizing description of it that will make people want to buy your book. The homepage of an author’s website is a marketing tool and should be used as such. A blog is a great feature to be a part of an author website, but can certainly not replace one altogether!

Okay, what are your pet peeves on author websites? What makes you cringe? Share your thoughts!